The Mystery Birds

When you start with something really good, it can be hard to imagine different or better. Each December, Salford Quays hosts Lightwaves, a free, 10-day festival illuminating public spaces on the year’s darkest nights with digital light art. When COVID hit the UK’s cultural sector in earnest, 2020’s festivals were cancelled within days. Lightwaves could have worked in an imagined Covid December: the artworks were often dotted across the Quays’ walkways and piazzas. Social distancing could be possible. The artwork could still be made.

But the question shifted from ‘Could it work?’ to ‘Is it good?’

The Quays Culture directors made the call early. If there is any question around the safety of bringing people to experience art, then they would have to find a way to bring the art to the people. In this decision, Mystery Bird was born.

The idea was sparked by our renewed interest in nature and awareness of birdsong during the first Covid UK lockdown in spring 2020. In a time of such isolation and restriction, the freedom and fragility of birds became a powerful metaphor. Quays Culture invited a collective of artists to bring their skills together to try something new: an experimental travelling projected installation. A scrap metal truck was transformed into a carnival float cum bird cage, animated by paper artist Helen Musselwhite, vocal artist Jason Singh, projection team Illuminos, Salford-based fabricators M3, and digital expert Jack Hardiker. Quays Culture worked with the Lowry’s Learning and Engagement team on a creative engagement pack/invitation and media students from the University of Salford to capture the project in flight.

Mystery Birds was sparked by Covid, but will continue to delight and inspire audiences far beyond our pandemic isolation as it tours and finds new life in 2021 and beyond.

For more information on the Mystery Bird project and future events, please visit:

For up-to-date information about the exciting Quays Culture programme, please visit:


  • Quays Culture
  • M3 Industries
  • RSPB
  • The Lowry
  • The School of Arts
  • Media and Creative Technology
  • University of Salford

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©2021 Suprema Lex
Salford Culture & Place Partnership, c/o the Lowry, The Quays, Salford, M50 3AZ